AT&T is Dead, Long Live AT&T

by on November 18, 2005

Speaking of departures, today another departure from the telecommunications scene was finalized–that of AT&T. The final paperwork was concluded earlier today with the filing of a merger certificate with the New York state secretary of state.

Making things more than a little confusing, the name “AT&T” will not actually be retired–instead the SBC moniker will be leaving the stage. The merged company will take the historic AT&T name.

The most remarkable thing about this is the lack of attention it is getting. The old AT&T was once one of the most powerful companies in the world. And for the past 20 years, its battles (along with MCI and Sprint) with the Bells kept food on the table for hundreds of lobbyists and lawyers. Yet, its final passing–and that of the long-distance industry as a whole, has barely reached outside the business sections of newspapers. The fact is (as argued here earlier this year) the world has moved on. Real competition in the phone business is raging–with wireless firms, cable firms, and Internet providers all joining the fray. This leaves the old AT&T looking somewhat dated, like a rotary dial phone among Blackberries.

It bequeathes no monopoly its new owners–only an object lesson. The new AT&T (which will still be called SBC until Monday) cannot rely on size alone. It–like its competitors–must survive by providing what consumers what. That’s the way it should be.

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